'Papa John' Schnatter may sell his stake in pizza chain he founded

Ousted Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is considering a sale of his stake in the pizza chain, months after he settled a lengthy dispute with company officials over its handling of his exit.

Schnatter, 57, is Papa John’s largest individual shareholder. He owns roughly 9.9 shares, or 31 percent of the company, where he served as longtime CEO and chairman of the board until his resignation of both roles after multiple high-profile incidents. Schnatter's stake was worth roughly $477 million as of Tuesday, according to Refinitiv data.

“Mr. Schnatter has solicited the advice of financial advisors regarding a possible disposition of all or some of his Common Stock in the Issuer,” according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Schnatter stepped down as Papa John’s CEO in late 2017 after he publicly blamed the NFL for the pizza chain’s sales slump. Months later, he resigned as chairman of the board after he admitted to using a racial slur during a conference call with marketing executives.

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The incidents kicked off a dispute between the board of directors and Schnatter, who filed a pair of lawsuits against his former company. Schnatter dropped the lawsuits in March as part of a settlement that allowed him to help identify an independent chairman to replace him on the board of directors. Papa John’s also removed a “poison pill” provision that prevented Schnatter from communicating with other shareholders.

The company’s stock is up more than 30 percent so far this year.


The pizza chain has invested heavily in recent months to overhaul its marketing and fuel a sales turnaround. Papa John’s announced earlier this year that NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal had joined its board of directors, invested in several restaurants and would be featured in future promotional campaigns.